Eye allergies are common in the United States. And if you wear contact lenses, you may experience worse eye allergy symptoms than someone who doesn’t wear contact lenses.
But what exactly are eye allergies? Despite the prevalence of eye allergies, there seems to be quite a bit of mystery surrounding them. Lens.com is here to get to the bottom of that. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about eye allergies, from what it is right down to how you can treat its symptoms.
What are eye allergies?
Another term for eye allergy is allergic conjunctivitis. Eye allergies are adverse immune system responses when your eyes come in contact with foreign irritants or allergens, such as pollen, dust, or smoke.
Under normal circumstances, the immune system creates antibodies to protect the body and fight invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. However, an individual with an eye allergy has an immune system that considers pollen, dust, smoke, and other similar irritants as dangerous invaders. Therefore, the individual’s immune system creates antibodies to fight what it perceives to be foreign invaders, resulting in an allergic reaction.
What causes eye allergies?
Allergens in both indoor and outdoor air can trigger eye allergies. Allergens in the air can include:
- Pollen from grass, flowers, and trees
- Pet hair or pet dander
- Mold and mildew
What are the symptoms of an eye allergy?
When an individual with allergies comes in contact with an allergen, their immune system produces histamines. Histamines are organic compounds that start the process of eliminating allergens from the body.
Histamines cause many uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms of an eye allergy can affect one or both eyes, and they can include:
- Burning sensation in the affected eye/s
- Watery or runny eyes
- Red eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Eye discharge in the form of mucus
Other symptoms such as runny nose (or congested nose), sneezing, wheezing, and coughing accompany these eye-related symptoms.
How are eye allergies diagnosed?
Immunologists (also known as allergists) are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing immune diseases, such as allergies. If you’re suffering from eye allergy symptoms, it’s best to consult with an immunologist because they can advise you on the best management or treatment options for your allergies.
How can I treat my eye allergies?
To manage or treat your eye allergy symptoms, your immunologist will likely recommend the following options:
- Antihistamine pills
Antihistamine pills help relieve eye allergy symptoms. Some antihistamine medications available today include loratadine (Claritin), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and fexofenadine (Allegra). Many antihistamine pills cause drowsiness. Consult your immunologist about their use, especially if your work involves operating equipment.
- Antihistamine eyedrops
Prescription antihistamine eyedrops help relieve itchy and watery eyes. Your immunologist may advise you to use them several times a day for maximum effect.
- Artificial tears
Artificial tears are special solutions that contain moisturizing agents that relieve dry eyes. Use them throughout the day to moisten your eyes and wash away allergens. Although these products are available over the counter, it’s still good to consult your immunologist before using them.
- Allergy shots
If pills and eye drops aren’t working, your immunologist may recommend allergy shots as a form of immunotherapy.
Allergy shots contain a small amount of the allergen (or allergens) that trigger your eye allergies. The shots contain just enough of the allergen to stimulate your immune system and create antibodies but not cause a major allergic reaction.
With each allergy shot, the amount of allergens increases, which helps your immune system build up a tolerance to the allergens. This increased tolerance means that your symptoms will reduce over time.
Allergy shots are regular injections done for three to five years.
Don’t let eye allergies ruin your day. If you suffer from prolonged eye allergies, consult an immunologist immediately.